In the Heart of Bush Country
KIMBERLY H. CONGER AND DONALD RACHETER
ALL OVER THE COUNTRY, CHRISTIAN RIGHT LEADERS TOOK CREDIT for the reelection of President George W. Bush in 2004. Evangelical Protestants, the primary constituency of the Christian Right, certainly turned out in higher numbers than in 2000. Movement leaders further point to the importance of “values” to voters as evidence that they have been right all along (Rosin 2005, 117). They say Americans want a return to traditional, religious values, and these voices finally have been heard definitively on Election Day. As with any monocausal explanation of political events, however, the reality of the situation is far more complex. That complexity is amply demonstrated in Iowa's change from “blue state” to “red state.”
Iowa has long been considered a state where the Christian Right has considerable impact on state and Republican politics. Beginning with Pat Robertson's surprise success in the Republican straw poll of 1987, the movement in Iowa has regularly drawn practical and motivated activists and has seen its power and influence grow and solidify in the state's Republican Party. The campaign of 2004 was no different in this regard. George W. Bush's faith and commitment to conservative Christian issue positions, combined with an unprecedented “get out the vote” effort on the part of the Republican party, consolidated Christian Right efforts and contributed to Bush's victory.
The caucuses have been a defining factor in Iowa politics since 1972. Many observers point to their importance and believe that the caucuses give Iowa politics a significant grassroots element that is missing in other states. Not